Commentary

Consistency Ratings: Week 8

What should we make out of Tim Tebow's odd first start of 2011?

Updated: October 25, 2011, 1:40 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Just call him Tim Tebow, Jekyll and Hyde quarterback.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Hans DerykTim Tebow has been a consistent fantasy performer from game to game, but within a game, it's a entirely different story.

Everything about Tebow's first start of 2011 illustrated how polarizing he can be: He won the game … yet for its first 57 minutes had put his team in a 15-0 hole. He had a 91.7 passer rating, ninth-best of any quarterback in Week 7 … yet had a Total QBR of 18.2, fifth-worst among 27 qualified quarterbacks. He had two touchdown passes and no interceptions … yet completed a miserable 48.1 percent of his pass attempts with a pedestrian 6.0 yards-per-attempt average.

As fantasy and the real game collide, so splits the Tebow debate. Many regarded Tebow's on-field performance poor -- primarily accounting for strength (or in this case lack thereof) of opponent -- but with 22 fantasy points in ESPN standard leagues, he ranked fifth among quarterbacks and 10th overall for the week.

And even in fantasy, Tebow's performance, again, was a tale of two quarterbacks. Consider this: With three minutes, five seconds to go in regulation, Tebow's performance -- an entirely ugly one up until that moment -- had earned him a mere eight fantasy points, or a "Stiff" effort by this column's standards.

Ten minutes and 35 seconds later, Tebow had tacked on an additional 14 fantasy points … not only vaulting him into "Start" territory, but also into the "Stud" class.

Such variable performance isn't uncommon from a mobile quarterback, though most remarkably, Tebow's late-game fantasy heroics were actually not at all thanks to his legs. He ran but twice for 17 yards in the final 10:35, albeit adding a two-point conversion run, but it was his arm that made the difference: 6-for-9 passing for 55 yards and two scores.

That makes Tebow a perfect 4-for-4 in terms of Stud performances in his NFL starts -- actual quarterback starts, not on-paper, LaDainian Tomlinson-esque ceremonial starts. Tebow has managed 13, 8, 15 and 8 fantasy points merely with his legs in those four starts; he has 9, 14, 12 and 14 with his arm. Those are 11.0 and 12.3 per-game averages, but all he'd need is eight points with his legs and seven with his arm to merely meet the Start classification in this column each week.

An eight-point rushing performance is 20 yards and a touchdown, or merely 80 yards. He has averaged 66 yards and 0.8 touchdowns in his four starts.

A seven-point passing performance -- and let's approach it from the worst-case scenario -- is 175 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. In four starts, Tebow has averaged 203 yards, 1.5 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions.

He might not be pretty to watch, but he is generating fantasy results.

Here's a curious, related question: How does Tebow stack up against some of the best all-time mobile quarterbacks? Let's take a closer look at six notable examples, ranking them by career Consistency Rating (note that in this case, this is calculated merely against the player's games played):

Cam Newton (71.4 percent): Certainly there's no question that Newton is Tebow's equal as a runner, and his arm is much more polished at this stage. To wit: Newton has averaged 13.7 fantasy points per game merely with his arm.

Daunte Culpepper (55.2 percent, Stud 36.2 percent of the time): His best season was in 2004, when he was a Start 81.3 percent of the time (13-for-16), a Stud 56.3 percent and finished with one of the best fantasy years ever by a quarterback.

Steve Young (53.3 percent): His best season came in 1998, when he was a Start 86.7 percent and a Stud 60.0 percent of the time.

Randall Cunningham (52.2 percent): His best season was in 1990, when he managed a 81.3 percent Start and 68.8 percent Stud rating.

Michael Vick (46.2 percent): Naturally, his best season was 2010, when he was worth the Start 91.7 percent of the time (11-for-12) and was a Stud a whopping 83.3 percent of the time (10-for-12).

Steve McNair (39.1 percent): His fantasy peak was the least valuable of the six -- assuming Newton stays on pace, of course -- and his career Consistency Rating is also lowest, and even in his best season in 2001 he was a Start 60.0 percent and Stud 40.0 percent of the time.

But let's compare one other, critical statistic of Tebow's with these five: Newton 60.3 percent, Culpepper 63.0, Young 64.3, Cunningham 56.6, Vick 55.8, McNair 60.1.

Those are career completion rates, and Tebow's is 48.7.

In other words, Tebow's downside is certainly steeper than this group, but keep in mind that his upside, primarily when his matchups stack up as favorable as the one in Miami, falls well within their ranges.

Consistency Ratings charts

Each position has two charts below: One for 2011 statistics alone, and one for the past 34 NFL weeks (Week 8 of 2009 through Week 7 of 2011). All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort.

(Note: Due to the byes in Weeks 4-7 of 2009, and Weeks 5-7 of 2011, certain players could have appeared in as many as 33 games or as few as 31, instead of just 32. You can tell which teams had more or less than 32 scheduled games by looking at the Defense/special teams chart for the past 34 weeks.)

Quarterbacks: 2011

Something to think about: Aaron Rodgers is the only player in football to have a perfect 7-for-7 Stud rating -- not just Start, Stud -- and that he has been a Stud on 21 of 32 occasions in the past 34 weeks is astonishing. Consider this: The Nos. 1 and 5 overall picks in the preseason, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, have managed 21 Stud performances combined in the past 34 weeks, and the two of them have missed only one game total between them. Rodgers has easily earned his first-round draft price tag, and with a pace of 416 ESPN fantasy points, he actually has a shot at the season record (LaDainian Tomlinson, 412 in 2006).

Quarterbacks: Past 34 weeks

Running backs: 2011

Running backs: Past 34 weeks

Wide receivers: 2011

Wide receivers: Past 34 weeks

Tight ends: 2011

Tight ends: Past 34 weeks

Kickers: 2011

Kickers: Past 34 weeks

Defense/special teams: 2011

Defense/special teams: Past 34 weeks

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.

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